What Is a Spindle Cell Neoplasm?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
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  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2019
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A spindle cell neoplasm is a rare growth found in connective tissue. It contains spindle-shaped cells that multiply abnormally and can become malignant. In the early stages of malignancy, it may be possible to treat the growth successfully with surgery to excise it. As the tumor grows, it can extend into neighboring organs and becomes more difficult to treat effectively. Patients with these neoplasms may need surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation as part of treatment.

These growths can arise anywhere, but are most common in the skin and oral cavity. The spindle cell neoplasm starts with a small, discrete growth, which may be palpable as a lump under the skin. As it grows, the edges become more irregular and a cyst may develop in the middle of the growth. Metastatic growths will start spreading to neighboring organs and tissues, distributing the malignant cells throughout the body.

The causes of this type of cancer are not fully understood, although there are appear to be some genetic and environmental factors. One of the biggest risk factors is a history of inflammation at the site. When the body experiences inflammation, it produces large numbers of cells with a high turnover, which increases the risk that one or more cells will be cancerous. Sun-damaged skin, for example, can be a likely spot for a spindle cell neoplasm to develop because the skin is constantly trying to repair itself and some rogue cells may get through along the way.


When a patient sees a medical professional for evaluation of a spindle cell neoplasm, it may be ulcerated and heavily swollen, or might simply be demonstrating some irritation that concerns the patient. A biopsy can be taken to examine the cells in a pathology lab to determine what they are and perform some tests to learn more about the nature of the growth. This information is important for the patient’s treatment plan, as it can help a doctor determine how to proceed. The care provider may also request a medical imaging study to look into the area.

If possible, a spindle cell neoplasm will be surgically excised. The surgeon can send it to a pathologist to determine if the margins of the growth were successfully removed. Biopsy samples of neighboring tissues and lymph nodes can indicate whether the growth spread, which can determine whether the patient needs chemotherapy or radiation to target any remaining cancerous cells that may be present in the body.


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